The Hijab Canard

The Hijab Canard

If there is one thing that jumps from the page of every so-called liberal newspaper in the US as regards the treatment of Islamic terrorism is the obvious anti-Muslim bias of their scribes. Their Western European cousins do not lag far behind. Under the guise of preaching tolerance, subtly they plant the seed of Islamophobia. Take, for instance, the myriad articles extolling the right of women in the Muslim world to use the hijab, coupled with the coverage verging on promotion of clownish affairs like “World Hijab Day” or girls wearing hijab in schools or the oxymoronic tales of Olympians playing beach volleyball in hijab.

Ironically, those who speak in favor of hijab in a misguided attempt to show support for the rights of Muslim women to the unfettered practice of their religion—a goal I would support—do, through ignorance, the opposite. First, because the hijab has very little to do with Islam and is more the consequence of cultural rather than religious influences. Second, because it inadvertently places Muslim women who have been trying to free themselves from the patriarchal mores of their societies at a disadvantage, and justifies obscenities like the one in the picture above as being somewhat based in “religious beliefs.” As we shall see, nothing could be further from the truth.

Hijab and the Quran

Contrary to the ravings of so-called fundamentalist clerics and politicians in the Islamic world, the Quran has few and rather scant references to the need to cover a woman with a hijab or its nastier cousins Abaya, Burka and Chador. In fact, there are two verses that are commonly cited. The first is:

sūrat l-nūr (The Light) 24:30

قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ يَغُضُّوْا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَ يَحْفَظُوْا فُرُوْجَهُمْ, ذَلِكَ أَزْكَى لَهُم.

“Say to the believing men that they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” Followed by:

قُلْ لِلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَ يَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوْجَهُنَّ…

“Say to the believing women that they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste)…”

This rather sound advice, in particular considering the times, is referred to as “hijab of the eyes,” which leads many by custom to avert their eyes and look to the ground when talking to someone not of their immediate circle. No mention here of any covering of any kind for either male or female.

Christians who may find fault with this may well remember Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Followed by 5:29: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” At least the Quran, as regards to ogling the opposite sex with lust does not call for self-mutilation.

The Surat of the light continues:

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.”[1]

Now, the “veil” a woman should draw over her bosom so as not to show “her ornaments” is also translated as “head cover” or “scarf.” In the original, it is called a khimar; “al-khimar is no more than a scarf, and it is known as such because the head is covered with it.”[2] In other words, this Surat only makes the rather sound recommendation that women should avoid trotting about exposing their ornaments (bosom, breasts); particularly if they want to avoid trouble with the fellows who are coming in from a long trip with no more company than each other and the camels.

The Second verse is:

sūrat l-aḥzāb (The Combined Forces) 33:59

Oh Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad) that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”[3]

Again, the original word for their “garment” is jalabib, meaning nothing more than a loose outer garment, of the type most commonly used at the time.[4] Again, it appears that the preoccupation of the Prophet was more with ensuring that the denizens of the semi-barbaric tribes he did so much to civilize show some modesty and circumspection, not unlike the efforts attributed to Jesus in the Christian Bible. Indeed, the requirement for Jewish Orthodox women to cover their heads, or that which required Catholic women to do the same while attending church before the Second Vatican Council (some still do), or for most women in Catholic religious orders to this day is no different and is based on the very same teachings, one suspects, and for the very same reasons.

One more word on hijab. In the first Surat, a reference is made to a “hijab of the eyes.” This has been interpreted by the exegetes of the Quran variously to mean a “veil” or “cover,” giving justification to all sorts of aberrations that go from the infamous Burka to having some Saudi women peek at the world through one eye, to garments reminiscent of the habits of Carmelite nuns. The purpose in those cases was to protect property by keeping it concealed from prying eyes. It has no base in the Quran but in a vast collection of edicts, laws and interpretations that vary from region to region. But in the Quran the meaning is quite different and refers to “separation” or “barrier”, not exclusive to men and women, but in more general terms denotes separation between man and woman, between man and man and between believers and non-believers. Indeed, in that sense, Jefferson’s “wall of separation” is, in effect, hijab. Hardly a veil over a girls face.

One thing we can say for sure: Whatever the meaning attributed to the verses we have just discussed, the appearance of a young woman in a bikini or tight fitting clothes and a hijab on supposed religious grounds is as anachronic and self-contradictory as to render it laughable. In other words, if a woman can forgo the loose clothes and replace them with tight fitting jeans…where’s the argument for the head cover? The glorification of this balderdash by latter day Rousseaus is both shameful and grotesquely out of place.

As Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa so eloquently put it in 2015: “As Americans, we believe in freedom of religion. But we need to clarify to those in universities, the media and discussion forums that in exploring the “hijab,’ they are not exploring Islam, but rather the ideology of political Islam as practiced by the mullahs, or clerics, of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic State.

In the name of “interfaith,’ these well-intentioned Americans are getting duped by the agenda of Muslims who argue that a woman’s honor lies in her “chastity’ and unwittingly pushing a platform to put a hijab on every woman.

Please do this instead: Do not wear a headscarf in “solidarity’ with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with “honor.’ Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.”


[1] This is the Yusuf Ali translation. In others, the “shame of sex” is variously translated as “women’s nakedness” (Pickthall), “the private aspects of women” (Sahih International), “what is hidden of women” (Shakir), “their hidden ornaments” (Muhammad Sarwar), “the shame of sex” (Mohsin Khan), “women’s private parts” (Arberry). No wonder the Prophet did not want his text translated! The original is:

[2] Fakhru ’d-Din ar-Razi, at-Tafsiru ’l-Kabir, vol. 23; Beirut: Daru ’l-Kutubi ’l-‘Ilmiyya, 1990; p. 179-180.

[3] Again, translation of “not molested” varies with others using “not molested,” “not annoyed,” “not given trouble” and “not hurt.”

[4] at-Turayhi, Majma‘u ’l-Bahrayn, vol. 1, p.384. “a wide dress, wider than the scarf and shorter than a robe, that a woman puts upon her head and lets it down on her bosom…”

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